At the 2011 Michigan Democratic Convention this past Saturday, attendees got to watch their party leadership punch itself in the face with not just their right hand, but also their left.
State Party Chairman Mark Brewer faced a challenge to his seat from only one other candidate, Detroit TV producer Ron Scott. I sat in on the 8:30 a.m. (ugh) Progressive Caucus meeting where both Brewer and Scott made impassioned pleas for our votes. Brewer promised that he’d learned his lesson from the 2010 midterm election and thing were going to change. We can only hope so.
Scott got up and gave a fairly eloquent speech in which he informed us that the $1,000 nomination fee was akin to a poll tax imposed on black voters in the South and that he was NOT going to pay to run. This proved to be his downfall.
Later that day, they got around to the vote. First, they had to accept the convention rules committee report. The first signs of trouble started then when a large contingent of Scott supporters demanded that the rules report NOT be accepted. Clearly they wished to change the rules to eliminate the $1,000 nomination fee that Scott objected to. In pure Mark Brewer fashion, they were ignored, and the rules report was quickly approved while the Scott folks yelled and jeered.
Then came the parade of party dignitaries. Some good speeches, some not-so good speeches and no less than three videos later, we were ready for the chairman vote. Because most of the convention-goers had been there since 8:00 a.m. and it was now 6:00 p.m. — an hour later than convention was supposed to run — many had left and those remaining were cranky and ready to cast their vote and then leave. Jocelyn Benson got up to nominate Brewer, a job the former Attorney General candidate David Leyton was supposed to have but, because they ran so late, he had left for another engagement.
After Brewer was nominated, the emcee asked if there were any other nominations. This was when things got ridiculous. The Ron Scott supporters desperately tried to nominate him but found only silent microphones. So they started shouting. The emcee then informed the crowd that Mr. Scott was not eligible because he had not followed the nomination rules (no mention of the fee so many in attendance did not realize this was the reason) and that his nomination would not be accepted. One minute later they had moved to vote in Brewer by unanimous consent, received a second and administered a voice vote, declaring Brewer the winner.
So, two things here. Mr. Scott should have known the rules and paid his fee. It’s not something new this year. It’s not something to keep Detroit African Americans from running, as he seemed to want to portray it in his speech that morning. If he didn’t like the rule, he should have endeavored to change it.
And Brewer’s handling of the vote was a lesson in how to widen any existing divisions within the party. Scott wasn’t going to win anyway. There were an array of different ways to handle this but, instead, they chose to ram the vote through in such a manner that they are guaranteed to have angered a large contingent of folks in the party.
So this is how we will enter the 2012 election season after being clobbered so epically in 2010: with two black eyes. One from Ron Scott. And one from Mark Brewer.
I’m just sayin’…